A Picasso Sale in Cologne Has Set a Record for the Artist in the Frothy German Auction Market


German auctioneer Van Ham reaffirmed the fast-rising strength of the German auction market yesterday with a record setting sale of a Picasso portrait.

(1971), painted just two years before the artist’s death, was offered in Cologne on June 5 with an estimate of €1.5 million to €2 million ($1.6 million to $2.14 million). The piece was hammered down for €3.4 million ($3.6 million), marking the highest price before fees in the auction house’s history as well as the highest hammer price of the German auction season this year, according to a representative for Van Ham.

Pablo Picasso, <i> Buste du femme</i> (1971). Image courtesy Van Ham auctions, Cologne, Germany. <br>© Foto: VAN HAM Kunstauktionen | nadinepreiss.de

Pablo Picasso, Buste du femme (1971). Image courtesy Van Ham auctions, Cologne, Germany.
© Foto: VAN HAM Kunstauktionen | nadinepreiss.de

The house counted at least 15 international bidders active on the telephone banks before the work was won by a Swiss collector for a premium-inclusive €4.35 million ($4.65 million).

Van Ham said it’s the first time in at least 25 years that a major painting by Picasso was auctioned in Germany. The picture depicts Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque, from whose estate it originally came. It was consigned by a German private collection.

The sale also included works by Louise Bourgeois, Paul Klee, Sigmar Polke, Egon Schiele and Kurt Schwitters. It took in a total of € 13.9 million ($14.9 million), also a record for the auction house for an evening sale. Another 400 lots will be offered today.

The German art market has exploded in recent years, as Artnet News reported in late 2022. Sotheby’s returned to the country in 2021 after a hiatus and sales in recent years have been notably robust, with more works going for over €1 million each.

A Villa Grisebach sale this past December realized more than double the previous record achieved for a work sold at auction in Germany when a Max Beckmann self portrait, , (Self-portrait Yellow-Pink), sold for €20 million ($22 million) before fees. 


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